Is perfectionism a bad thing? Or a disorder? No!
But here’s what you can do about it.
Is perfectionism a disorder? Or a bad thing?
What if our inner perfectionist is actually a part of us?
I believe that perfectionism is only a problem when we let our inner perfectionist get in the driver’s seat.
Rather than labelling it a perfectionism disorder, it’s much more useful to see it as a useful strategy… one that’s being applied too much or too often.
But it’s a strategy that has it’s place and can be used wisely.
When I show someone how to value their inner perfectionist — and not to judge it, something awesome happens.
To really work with your inner perfectionist in a wise and accepting way — that’s when you become whole again.
That’s authenticity, right there. It’s how you become stronger. And even more confident.
And that’s when you give less f*cks about the trivial things. And some of the big things too.
The inner perfectionist provides us with gifts as much as it creates liabilities.
This is what I have observed over a decade plus of coaching people to become even more successful.
The gifts of the inner perfectionist
If we deny our inner perfectionist, then we deny its gifts as well:
The gift of wanting us to make things better. Oh you know, the part of human nature that has driven us to invent running water, electricity and tech.
The gift of honouring goals and having standards.
The gift of getting things done within a certain time frame.
These are wonderful gifts. And there are many more.
That’s why I don’t see perfectionism as a disorder. It has it’s gifts.
Altogether, these gifts make the world go round.
These are the qualities that have made you the success that you already are. And given you the life that you already enjoy.
And you could be deeply appreciative of all this. Unless your inner perfectionist is so deeply entrenched in the driver’s seat that you can’t see it – or feel it – to appreciate it.
Why perfectionism isn’t a disorder
The trick is to know how to enjoy those gifts. And avoid the liabilities.
If you judge your inner perfectionist, then you simply create more liabilities.
Even though you didn’t mean to.
Your inner perfectionist just cracked the whip at itself. You just happened to be in the way.
Perfectionism isn’t a disorder. It’s simply a strategy that we use to get things done. But it is a two-edged sword.
When I put my book manuscript out there for feedback, I got this comment from a reviewer:
“As a perfectionist, I HATE being called a perfectionist. This implies that if I’m reading this chapter, then I probably am. And even worse, it implies that I’m in denial about it. Delete these sentences :)”
I had a huge chuckle. Because she was right. And she was pretty humorous about it. Not every perfectionist is quite so self-deprecating about it.
I made some huge structural changes because of her feedback.
Was that my inner perfectionist at work? Oh yes! In a healthy and balanced way.
And did it pay off?
Yes. My book became a #1 bestseller in Australia and the US. Those structural changes helped the book go from ho-hum to fun & engaging.
In the driver’s seat, the inner perfectionist puts the pedal to the metal.
It’s notion of an ideal time of arrival is yesterday. Because that’s when you should have achieved your goals, or ticked off that list.
Therefore, the ideal speed is break-neck speed. After all, you’re already late.
If your inner perfectionist is in the driver’s seat, then you’ll experience:
- A never-ending sense of rush and haste
- A busy head that just doesn’t stop
- Nervous energy
- A sense of being compelled to keep doing things. Stopping? There’s no stopping. That’s what coffee is for anyhow.
The inner perfectionist doesn’t think that you need to get to just one goal or destination. It thinks that you should have taken over the world by now.
Whilst also making a difference, being in an extraordinary relationship, having a great social life and an active gym schedule.
By yesterday of course.
And let’s not get the inner perfectionist started on your ideal weight, shape or muscle tone.
Laughter is the best medicine.
A friend said these words to me. We laughed. And she inspired me to create a gallery on Instagram.
Check out the #innerperfectionista gallery on Instagram
Often, we are so seduced by the inner perfectionist’s gifts – that we allow the inner perfectionist to slip into the driver’s seat.
But once it’s there, you experience the inner perfectionist’s liabilities. And only some of their gifts.
It’s similar to a bad online shopping experience. You don’t really get what you hoped for.
But I still don’t believe that perfectionism is a disorder.
It’s just that the inner perfectionist has gotten a little out of hand. With its ass in the driver’s seat.
We can’t do away with the inner perfectionist. It’s a part of us.
Without it, we wouldn’t be able to get many things done. We’d miss out on its gifts.
We simply need to keep the inner perfectionist out of the driver’s seat.
This is about having a healthy relationship with your inner perfectionist.
Not denying or judging it. Not labelling it as a perfectionism disorder.
But accepting it and managing it.
You can do this the easy way. Or the hard way.
The hard way involves something along the lines of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy):
Step 1: Recognise when the inner perfectionist has slipped into the driver’s seat. (Um, possibly it’s been there for the past 20 years?)
Step 2: Will yourself to get the inner perfectionist out of the driver’s seat. So you can regain control. Use mental force if necessary.
Step 3: Repeat, wash and rinse.
I’ve got to be honest. I’m not a fan of this approach when it comes to the inner perfectionist.
It’s a slippery slope from “I’m using CBT” – to “Oh look! More reasons to beat myself up with the perfectionist stick!”
“Oh bloody hell, it happened again? What’s wrong with me?”
“Gosh darn it, why is it taking so long to get the inner perfectionist out of the driver’s seat? Why am I not doing better?”
Oh, and an old favourite: “I can’t believe I have to do this again!?” – with a side of “What’s wrong with me?”
So, any of these sound familiar to you?
When your inner perfectionist is in the driver’s seat, the CBT approach can slide easily into more perfectionist shenanigans!
I prefer the easy way. Using a simple system, I’ve helped hundreds of people find a better solution.
This is the Triple A System I train people to use:
Step 1: Arrive | Be yourself
You are not your inner perfectionist. You are not even the things that you do. Or the thoughts or emotions you entertain. The essence of you is bigger than all that.
In Step 1, you connect with your true self. This is the essence of who you really are – and the aspect of your self that rightfully belongs in the driver’s seat.
When this happens, there’s no wiggle room for the inner perfectionist to budge in.
You don’t have to will your inner perfectionist out of the driver’s seat. Because it can’t get a foothold in there in the first place. Now isn’t that a more elegant solution?
Step 2: Accept | Love your inner perfectionist
Your inner perfectionist brings you gifts. That you already benefit from. Why not work with that?
If you accept your inner perfectionist, then you are able to work with it. Not against it.
You can manage its gifts. And steer clear of its liabilities. Now, how about that for the new perfect?
Step 3: Activate | Express yourself
This is about the full expression of your self – in your authenticity. Including your inner perfectionist.
It’s not just about what you say. Or do. If you want to reach your full potential, then this is what it takes:
It is your full self that guides you in setting your goals, defining your standards and getting clear on your ambitions.
This is what it means to express your full potential.
Now you know the steps. How do you apply this in your life?
And do you know about the inner perfectionist’s cheeky buddies?
Find out more. Get the free chapter of my bestselling book:
It’s Supposed To Be Fun: How to Get Sh!t Done Without Being Hard On Yourself